Family Practice: All I really need to know I learned from the PledgeWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Each week, my kindergartner is assessed on a particular skill. This past week the skill was her ability to recite the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Being the one who does this assessing of my daughter and her young classmates, hearing and saying the Pledge 30 times or so in a row made for a thought-provoking morning.
Not being a teacher, politician or professional athlete, I don’t hear the Pledge nearly as frequently as I did as a child. I wholeheartedly do remember it, though I can’t say as much for my recollection of the faces on our monetary pieces. The prior week I had told the first few students I skill-checked that I thought the man on the nickel might be Alexander Hamilton (it’s actually Thomas Jefferson in case you had forgotten too). In my defense, men with ponytails tend to all look alike and I did qualify it by telling them that it was a guess. Still, my case of mistaken identity may or may not have resulted in being (understandably) provided with a Pledge of Allegiance cheat sheet this time around.
Breaking something of such significance down for fresh eyes and fresh ears gave me pause and an opportunity to re-embrace it myself. As we inch ever closer to another presidential election, the he said/she said/we said/you said is already becoming nearly unbearable yet again. It comforts me to know that some loyalty-affirming, unifying elements still stand in American culture.
Of course, our “one nation indivisible” actually can’t even seem to agree on the pledge itself. Apparently, it’s too pro-religion, too anti-religion and lots of other things in between. I, for one, still like it.
I really am fine with pledging allegiance to something and having my children do the same. To me, it’s like saying that I accept where I am in this life and that I’m willing to make the best of it. My allegiance does not guarantee that I will always agree with everyone else making the pledge, but it is a promise that I’ll do my best to at least find a way to work it out and continue to live side by side with them. I’m also fine with the words “under God.” Or not. I could go either way, mainly based on the fact that it wasn’t part of the original sentiment and was added 23 years after the original author’s death.
Something that apparently was intended to be a part of the original sentiment was the word “equality.” However, the Pledge of Allegiance’s author, Francis Bellamy, opted against including the idea in fear of those individuals not yet recognizing the equality of all citizens. As it stood, the entirety of the original Pledge read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It has obviously seen a few revisions since 1892 and I’m not opposed to another, especially if it was, indeed, Bellamy’s original intent. I also certainly wouldn’t mind hearing “with equality, liberty and justice for all” when I drop by my children’s school one morning.
In addition to the American Pledge of Allegiance, my children actually begin their school day with another oath: “I am a kind person. I am here to learn and do my best work. I am going to treat others the way I want to be treated. I am looking for the good in other people. I am going to do what is right and show respect to all.”
Hearing such words in unison is music to a parent’s ears.
Obviously, not every child will absorb and exemplify the ideas behind their school pledge or the Pledge of Allegiance every day.
However, the fact that such concepts are being recognized, taught and celebrated is no doubt a positive influence on every child’s future and, in turn, our future as a society and a nation.
After many years of learning and growing beyond my own kindergarten experience, I have found that it is the most basic of notions that continue to ring the most true.
Do your best.
Accept one another.
Do the right thing.
It really is that simple. Not often easy, but simple.
Shannon Szyperski and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at letters@toledo freepress.com.